DOWNEY - As a kid, living in the heart of San Francisco, Mario Trujillo learned how to dream big."I grew up in the Mission community ‚àí not affluent at all," he said. "But I wanted to be a lawyer and help people. I had an immigrant mother who taught me the value of work and encouraged me. I learned how to give back...today, public service is a big factor in my life." Trujillo, a Los Angeles County deputy district attorney, hopes his lifetime of community involvement will grant him a home court advantage with voters this year as the 42-year-old Downey resident joins the crowd of prosecutors running for LA County district attorney in 2012. "I feel very blessed, people are reaching out to me ‚àí my phone is ringing off the hook," said Trujillo who manages the district attorney's office in Bellflower. "I believe I am qualified for this position...Mr. [Steve] Cooley has done a good job, an effective job and established the DA's office as a positive agency in the community. I want to continue that legacy and do what's fair and right in the interest of protecting the public." Although LA County district attorney Cooley has yet to rule out a possible fourth term, several administrators and career prosecutors within the district attorney's office have already announced intentions to run for the coveted position, including Trujillo who believes Cooley will not seek reelection. "I would not run against Mr. Cooley...I asked him to run again," Trujillo said. "I respect him. I believe in him. If he chooses to run, I will wait my turn...but because he may be leaving, I feel compelled to answer the call. I'm afraid of what'll happen if he leaves and where the office will go. You've got to have the courage to stand up." Trujillo, who worked as a Los Angeles County Unified School District bilingual elementary school teacher while studying law, graduated from the UC Berkeley and later received his Juris Doctorate degree from Southwestern University School of Law. Over the past 15 years, Trujillo has made community involvement a priority, serving in several local, non-profit organizations. He is the immediate past Lt. Governor for Kiwanis Division 13, which includes the cities of Downey, Bellflower, South Gate, and Long Beach. He currently sits on the board for the Downey YMCA and on the Art in Public Places Committee for the city of Downey. Trujillo, who has more than 14 years of prosecutorial experience after working in both the Hardcore Gang Division and Victim Impact Program, announced his candidacy for Los Angeles district attorney at the Mexican American Bar Association installation dinner on Feb. 5. Despite the herd of contenders vying for the district attorney position, Trujillo maintains that he has more to offer than his opponents, which now includes LA County prosecutor Alan Jackson, deputy district attorney Danette Meyers, and Jackie Lacey, the third-ranking administrator in the district attorney's office. "We're all unknown...to my knowledge, none of us have held public office before," he said. "But I will put my trial experience up against anyone. My administrative abilities and management of this office, my experience as an educator, life experience and community involvement, which gives me a pulse on the community. "I've walked, lived and worked in the most crime-ridden areas and a lot more could be done," said Trujillo who believes the county's recidivism rate is unacceptable. "We have an ethical obligation to make sure people are justly prosecuted...some of what we're doing just isn't working. We owe it to the public to do something. I want to look into ways of addressing this." If elected, Trujillo said he will continue the office's work of prosecuting crime throughout the county, but will add resources to especially target and prosecute real estate fraud cases and cyber crimes, such as identity theft. "I'm not running as a Latino candidate," said Trujillo who admits he misspoke when he declared he would be Los Angeles' first Latino district attorney, if elected. "I called Mr. [Gil] Garcetti to apologize...I want people to trust in my candidacy regardless of their politics. I want them to support my goal to keep the public safe." Trujillo said he has begun fundraising efforts and looks forward to hosting community forums and attending election debates where he feels he can best articulate the issues and demonstrate his qualifications. "I'm accessible, if anyone wants to discuss the issues or has ideas on how we can improve. I'm not afraid to say I don't know everything," said Trujillo. "We have a large area to cover ‚àí 88 cities ‚àí but the county is fortunate to have good viable options. My goal is to make them see I'm the best option."
********** Published: February 17, 2011 - Volume 9 - Issue 44